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Dealing with Objections – The Attack of the Naysayers!

February, 9 – BY STEPHEN HALE –

Given the exposure that we at OgilvyEarth have, many different types of businesses, locations, stakeholders, and challenges, I am still surprised at the consistent objections put up by organisations in committing to a course of action.  Internally these are generally driven by an outspoken and dreaded group we call ‘naysayers’ who for some reason seeks to sink these programs. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that there can’t be different opinions as individuals, but once an organisation has committed to course of action why do a minority of individuals seek to rock a popular boat?

Here are few classic types of naysayers that you may encounter and ways to deal with them.

Change Deniers – we don’t deal with change here. Classic objection to making positive change in the business where it seems that in the history of the organisation nothing has ever changed. We all know that can’t be true so what can you do? The best way to deal with these types is to ensure that you have well defined reasoning for the change. Quality messaging, proof points and leadership support are vital here. Don’t avoid the practical reasoning such as cost reductions or improved customer image messages to minimise the impact here. Make them business savvy reasons and you’ll curb the impact.

Logic Robots – the science doesn’t add up. Surprisingly still a common beast to tackle but not as troublesome as one might think. They will say that there are questionable levels of proof or that it’s a government conspiracy. Key approaches here are to make it not just about the science or the risk to the business but also be positive about the opportunity for the business to enhance its image with the community and consumers and thus good business sense. Make it a decision about competitive advantage and you’ll have less to worry about here.

King of the Corner – it’s not relevant to what we do in this section. This is a bit of bug bear for me. A business unit manager who decides not to support the agreed whole of corporate approach is holding up an entire business from acting. Prevention is better than cure here. Ensure that the action plan is takes into account the individual needs of the business. Call centres are different to distribution and offices to manufacturing the ability to define different approaches makes it work at a local level. Get the employee groups involved and contributing to keep engagement levels up and override the issue. If that fails call in a big leadership hammer to break a few stubborn barriers.

Rudderless Ships –  my manager doesn’t support the program. After many years of research with companies around engagement blocks this is still the greatest barrier to advancement. So the key learning is that you must get them engaged prior to the launch, they need to see leadership support and must be given permission to act on initiatives aligned to the plan. Don’t let a lack of KPI’s stand in the way of getting line mangers involved. Provide these vital team members with the tools and the help them realise their role as change agents not sustainability experts and you’ll see results.

I’m sure that you many of you have experienced individual barriers. Naysayers will pop up with any initiative and hopefully sharing some of these responses will make your sustainability strategy leap into the boundaries of those with real reductions.